Chandler to study Hunt Highway safety concerns as casino nears - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler to study Hunt Highway safety concerns as casino nears

July 20th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler to study Hunt Highway safety concerns as casino nears

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Hunt Highway is an inviting target for anyone looking to drive fast.

There are few impediments with only one stop sign between Cooper Road and Val Vista Drive for the highway, which marks the city’s southern border and lots of undeveloped land to the south.

However, the Chandler half is very developed with lots of homes and people who like to go for walks and ride their bikes.

Jason Crampton, city transportation planning manager, said those two things are in conflict and he wants to find out just how big a problem it might be. City Council was expected to approve spending $70,000 for a study to figure that out at its July 14 meeting. That vote came after the deadline for this edition.

Complicating the study is that everything on Hunt Highway is likely to change once the Gila River Casino Santan Mountain opens.

“Traffic speeds are very high and result in some safety issues,” Crampton said. “So yeah, this project is independent of the casino. But now that the casino is coming it does change the project a little bit.”

Crampton said the city planned to take a look at pedestrian and bicyclist safety concerns along the Hunt Highway between Cooper and Val Vista in 2020, before it was announced the Gila River Indian Community intended to build a casino at Gilbert and Hunt Highway at the end of that year.

“Our vehicle speeds on the highway prevent the average person from using the corridor,” said Ryan Peters, the city’s strategic initiatives director. “Additionally, a Gila River Indian Community casino is currently under construction with the potential for future development expansion needs creating changes in traffic patterns that will need to be analyzed when considering bicycle pedestrian improvements, traffic calming and any other potential roadway changes.

“This project will analyze several alternatives to that public outreach and recommend preferred design alternatives that could provide residents with a valuable and safe route in this underserved area.”

Crampton said the city has no data on how many accidents or car-bike collisions have taken place on that stretch of Hunt Highway and that that is among the questions he hopes the study will answer.

He said they have some options as far as traffic-calming measures. Dedicated bike lanes usually slows cars down. They could also narrow the roads further by putting a barrier of some sort between the car and bike lanes.

So far, Gila River tribal officials are not involved in the study. Crampton said he intends to reach out to them to find out how much, if at all, they want to be involved.

Crampton said it will take six-to-nine months to complete the study. The Santan Mountain Casino is expected to open at the end of this year or in early 2023. If it does open then, it would come during the research phase of the study and they will be able to incorporate data into the study showing how much the casino opening changed patterns for pedestrians and cyclists.

For now, the City is not planning on making a lot of changes in advance of the casino’s opening.

“The City anticipates some additional traffic volume on Gilbert Road, Lindsay Road, and Hunt Highway,” said Dana Alvidrez, the city’s traffic engineer. “All three roadways currently operate below capacity, and as such have the ability to handle the expected traffic generated by the casino.”

She said the one change that is coming will be a traffic light replacing the stop sign at Hunt Highway and Gilbert Road.

Alvidrez said traffic patterns in South Chandler are expected to change when the Loop 202 and Lindsay Road interchange opens up.

“The opening of the Lindsay Road traffic interchange with the Loop 202 is expected to significantly change travel patterns in this area south of Loop 202,” she said. “The City is aware of this and will be evaluating these changes and recommending improvements as necessary. In the meantime, the City has had a Lindsay Road widening project planned for years, and is currently in the design stage of this project.”

Most of the $70,000 Hunt Highway study is being paid for with federal funds (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality). The city had to pay a small portion, which came to just under $4,000.

Crampton admits there are some unknowns because of the casino. Still, he said it’s important to move forward.

“That certainly will influence the findings of the study,” Crampton said. “But yeah, with or without the casino, I think we were still looking at these bike enhancements and potential traffic calming enhancements.”